Why are these facts so awesome? Well probably because you didn’t know anything about Gibraltar to begin with! Honestly, until we arrived we had no idea about the history of Gibraltar, how close it was to Africa, or the many amazing things to do there. Here are 17 fun facts about Gibraltar, and why it should be on your travel bucket list!
17 Awesome Facts About Gibraltar
1. Strait of Gibraltar
Our first fact about Gibraltar is that the strait may be even more famous than the actual city itself! The body of water carries an immense historical importance in the world, that even holds weight in today’s society. Not only does the straight act as a passageway from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic Ocean, but the close proximity of Gibraltar to Africa only magnifies the nine miles of water in between.
2. A British Territory
Now you’d think Gibraltar would be a part of Spain by looking at a map… However, it’s actually a British Overseas territory! Following the ceding of Gibraltar to the English Crown in the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht, Spain unsuccessfully attempted to regain control in three separate battles. British control of the region would forever change the culture and course of Gibraltar history in this little corner of the world.
3. The Rock
The Rock is the unchallenged centerpiece, and the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Gibraltar. At almost 1,400 feet high, it towers over the city and the vast ocean underneath. The rock holds many amazing things to do in Gibraltar which we will feature on this list, including a beautiful nature reserve which covers most of its upper area.
Over 300 Barbary Macaque monkeys call the rock of Gibraltar home, and it’s very exciting to see them in their natural habitat. If you’re planning on taking a hike up the rock keep a look out for these crazy creatures on the walls and roads.
The higher you climb (especially into the nature reserve), the more monkeys you will see. Here’s an important fact about Gibraltar… Do not feed, or try and pet the monkeys! They are big, aggressive, and they will bite. The hospital is not one of the things to do in Gibraltar you want to add to your list.
The history of Gibraltar is rich, and forever holds a spot in Greek mythology with one of its greatest heroes. In Latin it is famously referred to as Calpe, and acts as one of the pillars of Hercules. For the Greeks, Gibraltar marked the end of the Mediterranean coast line, which to them also symbolized the end of the world!
6. Europa Point
Europa Point is one of the many impressive lookouts of Gibraltar, and where the Mediterranean and Atlantic Oceans meet. As if this wasn’t cool enough, on a clear day you can even see the Moroccan Coast from Gibraltar to Africa!
7. Gibraltar to Africa
Speaking of Africa, since you’re so close you might as well go step foot on another continent, right? Only a half-hour ferry ride away lies the city of Tangiers, Morocco. Day trips can easily be arranged in town, and even include tours from Gibraltar to Africa in the price.
Gibraltar is home to 30,000 residents proud to call themselves part of the United Kingdom. In fact, throughout the history of Gibraltar, there have been two separate votes in both 1967 and 2002.
Both times the voters rejected a referendum to put them under Spanish governance. The latter of which, resulted in an overwhelming 98% of Gibraltarians voting to stay under British sovereignty. Cheers!
As a British territory, English is the official language of Gibraltar. However, with Spain right across the border there is plenty of Spanish spoken as well. There is even a local language unique to Gibraltar called Llanito, which is a combination of English, Spanish, Maltese, Portuguese, and even some Italian mixed in.
10. Food in Gibraltar
The food in Gibraltar is every bit as diverse as the language. While you can expect to eat your fair share of fish and chips and other English specialties, you’ll also find tapas, kebabs, and a delicious selection of African food, too! The vast food scene makes bar and restaurant hopping one of the best things to do in Gibraltar.
11. Great Siege Tunnels
By now I’m sure you’re starting to see how wild the history of Gibraltar truly is! The Great Siege was an attempt by Spain and France to capture the territory of Gibraltar during the American Revolutionary War. In order to get the cannons within firing range of the attacking enemies, the British came up with the idea of digging into the limestone rock.
What resulted was a start to one of the most impressive labyrinth of tunnels known to man, and was a vital part in defending Gibraltar. The tunnels were again used by the Allies during World War II, and actually expanded from 7 to 25 miles in length!
Due to lenient tax regulations of the early 2000’s, Gibraltar has been a popular home for bookmakers and online gaming companies. Although present day taxes have increased, many big players in the gambling industry still call Gibraltar home. For this reason, gambling still remains a large part of the economy here.
13. St. Michael’s Cave
Of the over 150 caves inside the rock of Gibraltar, St. Michaels Cave is the biggest and most impressive of all. Sitting high in the nature reserve it dates all the way back to the Neolithic time period, and onlookers have been writing of its beauty since 45 AD! St. Michaels Cave is visited by over 1 Million people per year, and is one of the most incredible things to do in Gibraltar.
14. Gibraltar International Airport
Surprisingly high on our list of cool and unique facts about Gibraltar is visiting the international airport! As soon as you get over the border from Spain you will actually have to CROSS the airport runway to get into the city. Depending on your timing, you may even by held up by police officers because a plane is either landing or taking off!
15. Mediterranean Steps
Making the trek up the Mediterranean steps is strictly for the adventurous, but also the best way to see the rock of Gibraltar. Aside from the incredible views of the city and ocean below, the hike is something of a spectacle in itself.
Along the steps, you’ll have the pleasure of seeing some 500 species of plants, hundreds of birds, and other intriguing animals that call Gibraltar home. However, be warned… The hike is extremely steep so most visitors prefer to take the cable car at least one way up or down.
16. World War II
As you know now, Gibraltar history showcases it as a place of high military importance. So much so that during World War II, it was one of the most heavily defended naval ports in Europe.
Due to its vital position, the British controlled nearly all ships coming from the Mediterranean Sea into the Atlantic Ocean. To make room for the massive military operations (and for the safety of the civilians), more than half of Gibraltars population was evacuated at the beginning of the war!
17. Beaches of Gibraltar
While not necessarily known for its beaches, Gibraltar has six amazing spots enjoyed by tourists and locals alike. With its pleasant sub-tropical climate and beautiful backdrop, the beaches are a perfect place to cool down on a hot day. Check out Catalan and Sandy Bay, or the Eastern/Western beaches to take a dip. Oh, and make sure to keep an eye out for the Dolphins!
Have any questions about going from Gibraltar to Africa, or your own facts about Gibraltar to share? Comment below and let us know.
Brigitte & Jake
Where in the world are we? Follow our daily adventures on Instagram @nothingfamiliar!
Where To Stay In Gibraltar
Ultra Luxury (High End) – Sunborn Gibraltar – This unique luxury experience is unlike anything else. The “hotel” is actually a permanently parked high end yacht docked in the Gibraltar harbor. Swim in the infinity pool, hit the casino, look out from Gibraltar to Africa, or simply enjoy being in the center of all the action.
Fun Vacation (Mid Range) – Rock Hotel – Located on the Rock of Gibraltar, this colonial style hotel is perfect for any vacation! Sweeping views of the bay and comfortable rooms are also a highlight to its location, and fun addition to the history of Gibraltar.
For more places to stay in Gibraltar you can explore the latest prices here!
Nothing Familiar Travel Planning
Flights: We always find our cheap flight deals using Skyscanner. That’s how we flew from Norway to Poland for under $20 USD, and Thailand to Vietnam for less than $50!
Rental Car: We use Discover Cars for renting vehicles. A quick travel tip is to ask for a discounted weekly rate rather than booking 2-3 days.
Tours: Check out Get Your Guide for thousands of activities around the world. From street food tours to skip the line entry passes!
Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without being covered. We’ve been using SafetyWing for the last few years on the road and they are there when we need them.
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